1. LiveScience: “Swine Flu Is Evolution in Action”

Swine flu—both the virus itself and the associated paranoia—seems to be sweeping the world. Is it evolution in action?

“Anyone who thinks evolution is for the birds should not be afraid of swine flu,” writes Robert Roy Britt, attempting to poke fun at creationists. “[I]f there's no such thing as evolution,” he continues, “then there’s no such thing as a new strain of swine flu infecting people.”

While he intends satire, Britt is actually showing his ignorance of what creationists believe. It’s not just Britt, of course; even a BBC News article states that the influenza virus “must continually evolve” in order to survive.

So what about it—does influenza evolve? If so, does that prove Darwinism? And why all the hubbub about evolution when discussing a public health issue?

The simple answer is that it all comes down to what one means by “evolve,” “evolution,” and the like. After all, “evolve” meant “to change” or “to develop” before Darwin ever pioneered the evolutionary biological model. Furthermore, the core, scientific meaning of evolution—changes in gene frequencies and expression in a population over time—is often confused with the popular idea of “molecules to man” evolution over millions of years. Evolutionists routinely point to examples of the former definition and say it proves the truth of the latter definition.

That’s where the creation model comes in. While viruses, like other organisms, can mutate, these mutations result in either “horizontal” change—where the organism changes in some way, but retains the same amount of genetic information as before—or destructive change, where the organism actually has less genetic information than before. Either way, the “evolution” that results doesn’t show how one kind of organism could evolve into another kind.

Additionally, viruses such as influenza swap their genetic code with other influenza viruses, leading to new forms that no one has immunity to. But again, no new genetic information is created in these situations.

Britt quotes (among others) the “Understanding Evolution” website, which says, “To evolve by natural selection, all an entity needs is genetic variation, inheritance, selection, and time, all of which viruses have in spades.” That is true—but only if (again) “to evolve” merely means that the population is changing. Thus, the flu virus “evolving” has nothing to do molecules “evolving” into man.

For our full analysis of swine flu (updated regularly), see Swine Flu—Cause for Concern?

2. LiveScience: “Some Dinosaurs Survived the Asteroid Impact”

The widely taught model of dinosaur extinction doesn’t line up with the latest fossil findings.

We couldn’t kick off the topic any better than Time magazine’s Jeffrey Kluger did this week:

When a scientific principle is common knowledge even in grammar school, you know it has long since crossed the line from theory to established fact. That's the case with dinosaur extinction. Some 65 million years ago—as we’ve all come to know—an asteroid struck the earth, sending up a cloud that blocked the sun and cooled the planet. That, in turn, wiped out the dinosaurs and made way for the rise of mammals. The suddenness with which so many species vanished after that time always suggested a single cataclysmic event, and the 1978 discovery of a 112-mile, 65-million-year-old crater off the Yucatán Peninsula near the town of Chicxulub seemed to seal the deal.

The asteroid impact has long been blamed for the K–T extinction, a period when (old-earth advocates believe) 70 percent of life died and numerous creatures (including dinosaurs) went completely extinct.

But a team led by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Jim Fassett has just upset the evolutionary status quo. The team analyzed dinosaur bones found in the San Juan Basin in the U.S. Using old-earth dating techniques—such as magnetic polarity—Fassett believes the evidence “independently indicate[s] that [the bones] do indeed post-date the extinction.” The bones have different concentrations of rare earth metal elements than corresponding “older” bones said to be from the time of the asteroid impact.

Taken together, the study indicates that based on old-earth interpretive methods, some dinosaurs definitely outlived the supposed extinction event. Not only does this mean the long-standing, popularly presented explanation of dinosaur extinction wasn’t quite right; it also means that evolutionists have been wrong every time they asserted that the asteroidal explanation was fact. Furthermore, any attempts by evolutionists to sidestep this study and uphold the K–T extinction event will show how they too interpret the facts to fit them in their worldview.

The LiveScience article also reports that “[m]any scientists now suspect other factors were involved [in the extinction], from increased volcanic activity to a changing climate.” That actually fits in well with the young-earth model, which envisions substantial geological activity of all sorts during the Flood year (including volcanoes, which could have given rise to the same chemical evidence interpreted as asteroidal impact), as well as changing post-Flood environment that eventually doomed the dinosaurs (as far as we know).

3. National Geographic News: “Baby Mammoth CT Scan Reveals Internal Organs”

The preserved baby woolly mammoth shows that it died in an “oxygen-deprived environment” that “prevented decay and kept it intact.” Catastrophic processes, perhaps?

The mammoth, discovered last year in Russia, appears to have been only three to four months old when it died. CT scans conducted in Japan produced 3-D images of the mammoth’s internal organs, giving researchers their best information to date about the internal structure of mammoths.

What’s intriguing is how the mammoth appears to have perished. “The last movements of the trunk and its last breathing was bringing a lot of silt inside,” explains researcher Alexei Tikhonov of the mammoth’s death. National Geographic News’s James Owen writes, “It’s thought the Ice Age mammal met its end suddenly, when it drowned in a river or a lake, as its trunk, mouth, and digestive tract contained large amounts of mud.”

This certainly fits the scenario for how a catastrophic flood could drown and bury animals in sediments. Of course, because this mammoth was found at the top of the sedimentary layers (actually in permafrost), it would have been the result of a local flood some time after Noah’s Flood, presumably during the Ice Age. Alternatively, this mammoth may have simply been caught in a bog and unable to escape (again, during the Ice Age).

Look to AnswersInGenesis.org early next week for a more detailed review of the baby mammoth.

4. PhysOrg: “Darwin in a Test Tube: Scientists Make Molecules that Evolve, Compete, Mimick Behavior of Darwin’s Finches”

Scientists have built a molecular system that “evolves” in the lab. But like other such systems that have gone before it, this doesn’t prove Darwin.

A team at the Scripps Research Kellogg School of Science and Technology undertook the project, using molecules in test tubes to illustrate Darwinian principles. The advantage to using molecules in the project was that they “replicate” every few minutes, allowing a much faster look at the effect of changes across “generations.”

Specifically, the scientists developed two “enzymatic RNA molecules” that can compete for resources in the same environment. Each time the molecules replicate, there is a small chance it will “mutate,” arguably giving the mutated molecules new “traits.” The news release explains what then happened:

[T]hey placed the two RNA molecules together in a pot with five different food sources, none of which [the molecules] had encountered previously. At the beginning of the experiment each RNA could utilize all five types of food—but none of these were utilized particularly well. After hundreds of generations of evolution, however, the two molecules each became independently adapted to use a different one of the five food sources. Their preferences were mutually exclusive—each highly preferred its own food source and shunned the other molecule’s food source.

While this study is an interesting example of a “natural selection”-like process in the chemical world, this process does nothing to show how such molecules could have evolved into more advanced creatures. Nor does it show how one kind of plant, animal, or other life-form could have evolved into another. The difference is that these molecules have lost a great deal of ability (the ability to consume four of the foods) even as they have become more efficient at consuming one food. Even if the molecules were left replicating for years, at the end of the day they would still be RNA molecules, presumably with even less overall functionality than when they began. This indicates the reality of natural selection—and how it shows proof for the opposite of what Darwin hypothesized.

5. ScienceNOW: “Safer Stem Cells?”

Week after week, we’ve been reporting on breakthroughs in non-embryonic stem cell research—breakthroughs that show the superior viability of such life-honoring medical treatments.

In this case, the breakthrough concerns the process through which scientists convert adult body cells into so-called pluripotent stem cells, able to grow into many types of human tissue.

Previously, the process required the use of viruses to insert genetic material into the adult stem cells to activate the pluripotency. Of course, even to a layman that sounds dangerous; furthermore, there was medical fear that this method may trigger cancer in the implanted stem cells.

The breakthrough was the result of work by Scripps Research Institute chemist Sheng Ding, who—along with colleagues—figured out how to insert the necessary transcription factors without using a virus. The team experimented on mice cells and in live mice, demonstrating that the resulting stem cells are fully pluripotent.

While the method is less efficient than using viruses, the risks should be much lower. The researchers also caution that the method will have to be tested in humans.

And Don’t Miss . . .

  • You may think that “hundreds of years” is the language of (catastrophist) creationists while “millions of years” is the language of (uniformitarian) evolutionists. However, a new study shows that even evolutionists are willing to believe in rapid deglaciation in just hundreds of years—compatible with a single, post-Flood Ice Age.
  • The New York Times tells us about atheists “shouting it from the rooftops”—the increasing vocalness and pride of atheists across America. The Times reports that atheists are increasingly meeting up and organizing, even likening themselves to a “rights movement” and “coming out of the closet.” The irony is that atheists, such as Beverly Long (quoted in the article) commonly report hiding their concerns when growing up in church. For a movement that proclaims rationality and open-mindedness, we wonder how many left church without ever seeking answers to their questions. (See also a map attached to the article that shows how atheism is growing in the United States.)
  • A new DNA study “[v]irtually without exception” supports the hypothesis that all Native Americans are descended from a single ancestral group that emigrated from Asia across the Bering Strait. (For more, see our coverage of the same hypothesis in the December 1, 2007 and March 15, 2008 issues of News to Note.)
  • Dinosaurs did indeed live in what we now call the Arctic. Answers in Genesis covered this last year in Polar Dinosaurs.
  • Vote for the greatest current scientific mystery in a poll at LiveScience. We (of course) wanted to point out that staunchly evolutionistic LiveScience included “How Did Life Arise on Earth?” in the poll, and as we’re writing this “How Did the Universe Begin?” is the top question. (We answered “What Causes Gravity?”—a good, operational science question for physicists, including creationist physicists.)
  • If you thought evolutionists had already applied “evolution” to everything, think again: an engineer and a biologist are studying how “flow systems . . . evolve in time to balance and minimize imperfections” (our emphasis). It reminds us of mineral evolution last year.
  • A spider with a smiley face—natural selection at work or intelligent design? While some may speculate that this is an example of God’s sense of humor, the fact that not all of this species of spider have such markings mean the smiley face is probably a chance occurrence.
  • Comets delivered the ingredients to start life on Earth? Despite what the article says, it’s an old idea—made none the more plausible by the new research, which merely speculates how comets could have delivered the same noble gases that we have in Earth’s atmosphere now.

For more information: Get Answers

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